Lyon travel guide

Cities and towns

About Lyon

Lyon in Rhône-Alps is the stylish capital of the region, known for its beautiful architecture, fantastic restaurants and excellent shopping.

Lyon started life as a Roman colony that became the capital of Gaul, called Lugdunum, and only joined as part of France in the 14th century. The ruins of the amphitheatre, the ancient theatre of Fourvière, are the city''s most visible monument of its Roman past. Lyon has always prospered and was both the banking capital of Gaul, and subsequently France, and had a huge textile industry during the Renaissance, particularly in the silk trade with Italy. However, this wealth has not always meant peace with the canuts, the silk workers, rioting and having uprisings in the 1830s and the St Barthlomew's Massacre in 1572. Lyon was occupied early in World War 2 and was a centre not just for the occupying German forces but also for the Resistance. The traboules, secret passages once used by the canuts and merchants, helped the Resistance to evade the Gestapo and can still be found today in a city that is home to the headquarters of international police organisation, Interpol. A city of tradition and modernity, the glass and steel headquarters of Interpol stand out against the centuries of architecture in the UNESCO World Heritage site Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon) including the medieval cathedral with its wonderful astronomical clock, the many stunning churches and basilicas and the grand townhouses from the Renaissance era.

Enjoy Lyon's fabulous architecture at night with its Fête des Lumières (Festival of Lights) on the 8th December every year - a spectacular set of illuminations that gets better every time. Lasting for 4 days, the event has attracted over 4 million visitors over the last 5 years. Also popular are the Nuits de Fourvière, a series of music, circus and theatre shows at the amphitheatre, which run throughout June and July. With such a rich history and culture, Lyon has many museums ranging through modern and fine arts museums, an aquarium, a Gallo-Roman museum, the Maison des Canuts (House of the Silk Workers) and even a museum about firemen! You can also visit the house of Antoine Lumière, the father of the Lumière brothers who invented the cinematograph and played a huge part in the invention of cinema. The house is a museum full of the brothers' inventions, films, cameras and the first colour and 3D photographs as well as a large cinema. Lyon is well-known for its classy shopping districts such as the Presqu'ile with over 70 designer labels and high street brands, Croix-Rousse, formerly the silk-workers district, which is now bustling with workshops and boutiques of young designers and the Part-Dieu shopping mall - the largest in Europe with over 260 stores, a 14 screen cinema and several restaurants and bars. If, after all that shopping, you feel the need for some peace and quiet, then take some time out to walk around Lyon's lovely parks and gardens.

Make the most of your visit to Lyon with the Lyon City Card which gives you access to over 40 services and attractions including museums,d tours and theatre shows as well as free travel on Lyon's trams, underground and buses. Lyon has a vibrant nightlife with lots of bars and terraced cafés where you can enjoy an evening drink in the open air and the city is home to several Michelin star restaurants as well as serving more traditional fare in the city's bouchons so you're sure to find your tastes catered for. Try some local produce at any of the 40 daily food markets and go hunting for a bargain at the flea markets and antiques shops and markets around the city. Local specialities not to be missed include salad lyonnaise (a salad of bacon, lettuce and a poached egg), rosette lyonnaise (a traditional sausage), and cervelle de canut (a cheese dip seasoned with herbs), not forgetting to wash it down with some excellent Beaujolais wine.

Why visit Lyon?

  • Shopping
  • The Architecture
  • The Amphitheatre
  • Food and Drink 

Overview

  • Country: France
  • Region: Rhône Alps
  • Department: Rhône
  • Population: 483,000
  • Coordinates: 45.766445,4.83619

Coordinates shown are based on the WGS84 system, please check driving directions before departing.

Nearby attractions

At the unusual Musée Miniature et Cinéma you can see hundreds of miniature models and tiny objects as well as a great collection of film sets!

This spacious park includes a fantastic rose garden, a zoo, a lake and more. Europe's second-largest urban park, this one has a zoo too - and it's free!

Come explore the underwater beauty of the sea at the Aquarium de Grand Lyon! 5,000 fish in 47 pools from nearly 300 different species swim around behind glass whilst blacktip sharks, stingrays and more can found in the 450,000...

A remarkable medieval timber-frame house in the heart of Mâcon, the Maison du Bois is the oldest building in the town. Covered in fine wood carvings of monkeys, men and masked figures, that are sometimes quite ribald and...

Places to visit nearby

Mâcon in Burgundy is a beautiful city surrounded by vineyards and châteaux.

Grenoble in Rhône Alps is a vibrant city under the shadow of the snow-capped mountains that have given it the title of the 'gateway to the Alps'.

Annecy in Rhône Alps is a lakeside city, beside Lake Annecy, that is framed by snow-capped mountains and known as the 'Venice of the Alps' for its beautiful canals.